Gender study reveals how performed personality traits can dictate success in the workplace

A research postgraduate at our University has recently shared the results of her study into gender differences in communication styles and their influence on workplace communication in public relations.

Distance learner Amelia Reigstad began her PhD study in 2014. Interviewing 40 public relations practitioners in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota in summer 2017, the study revealed that personality traits rather than gender ultimately have more influence over whether a PR professional is effective in his or her job, and that women who adopt "male" traits often achieve success.

Amelia said: “The idea that practitioners “perform” in their day-to-day jobs and put on fronts, not necessarily communicating what is on their mind to colleagues and clients, is apparent, and there is a feeling that the expectation is to always “be on,” to essentially be acting or playing a role.

“Age is a factor within many communication challenges, and female practitioners take on 'masculine' qualities in order to gain recognition and seats at the executive table. Inequality at the C-suite level is still of concern to women but it doesn’t impact men in the same way.”

Amelia, who is also a visiting assistant professor of marketing communications at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, began looking into gender in public in relations, and why the industry is predominantly female, during her Master’s in MA and Communication at Leicester. She subsequently presented her dissertation at the 2013 Canadian Public Relations Society’s (CPRS) National Conference.

“The goal of my PhD study was to assist communication professionals to do their job more effectively by understanding gender and communication differences between men and women and how this relates to the workplace, leadership positions and public relations”, Amelia said.

“My hope is that this may inspire practitioners to look at the status quo in a different light and challenge themselves to communicate more effectively.”